Project Number: 8070-21000-010-012-R
Project Type: Reimbursable Cooperative Agreement
Start Date: Mar 1, 2023
End Date: Nov 30, 2026
Project objectives: Our regional interdisciplinary team, with the guidance from our major stakeholders, aims to enhance grass-fed dairy production across the country through the following objectives: Objective 1: Identify key management strategies that enhance farm viability through expanding economic benchmarking. Objective 2: Understand grazing and youngstock management impacts on internal parasitism risk, animal health and productivity, and rumen development. Objective 3: Identify soil and forage management strategies that enhance forage productivity and quality and are resource efficient (Soder and Laboski will work under this objective). Objective 4: Understand the nutritional and sensory quality of grass-fed milk to inform market growth and expansion strategies. Objective 5: Strengthen knowledge, skills, and networks among farmers, processors, and technical service providers.
Objective 3.1- Identify management strategies that enhance forage productivity and quality (Laboski) Economics of organic nitrogen management strategies: An experiment will be conducted to compare the cost and agronomic benefit of several organic nitrogen management strategies in perennial forage stands. A trial will be established in the spring of 2024 on organic fields in VT. Plots will be managed over 3 seasons to generate information on managing perennial cool season grasses for optimal yield and quality under organic management. Experimental design will be a randomized complete block with 4 replications and a factorial arrangement of 2 factors: 1) grass species and 2) nitrogen treatment. Determine agronomic rate of legume inclusion for grass nitrogen supply: A research experiment will be conducted to compare the nitrogen supply provided to a companion perennial grass from several legume inclusion rates. A trial will be established in the spring of 2024 on organic fields in VT. Plots will be managed over 3 seasons to generate much-needed practical information on the rates of legumes needed in combination with perennial cool season grasses to provide adequate nitrogen to support productivity and quality under organic management. Experimental design will be a randomized complete block with 4 replications and a factorial arrangement of 2 factors: 1) grass species and 2) legume inclusion. Objective 3.2- Characterize soil nutrient dynamics on grass-fed dairy farms (Laboski) Calculate on-farm Whole Mass Nutrient Balances: A subset of 5-10 grass-fed dairy farms from VT and NY will provide nutrient importations, crop production, animal productivity, and other records to calculate their balance using the Cornell Whole Farm Mass Nutrient Balance calculator. Nutrient balances will be calculated over at least 3 years to identify whether these farms are importing or exporting nutrients on average on to their land bases. Objective 3.3- Evaluate the interaction between forage quality and molasses supplementation level on ruminal fermentation and methane emissions (Soder) A 4-unit dual-flow continuous culture fermenter system designed to simulate ruminal digestion and solid and liquid outflow to the small intestine will be used to evaluate the interaction between forage quality of fresh herbage and level of molasses supplementation of a grass-fed diet on ruminal fermentation and methane emissions. Year 1 treatments will be in a 2 x 2 factorial arrangement: 1) high-quality herbage plus liquid molasses at 10% of total dry matter (DM) fed; 2) high-quality herbage plus liquid molasses at 5% of total DM fed; 3) low-quality herbage plus liquid molasses at 10% of total DM fed; and 4) low-quality herbage plus liquid molasses at 5% of total DM fed. A second in vitro experiment will be conducted in Year 2 evaluating the effect of molasses supplementation on various forage types (e.g., grass only, grass plus legume, more diverse pasture mixture) with the same protocol outlined above.